The Journal Gazette
 
 
Wednesday, September 08, 2021 4:50 pm

Doubleheader Pregame: TinCaps (51-57) vs. Lansing (51-57)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Let's try this again.

The TinCaps were set to open their final home series of the season, against the Lansing Lugnuts, on Tuesday night, but thunderstorms put a hold on that contest. After an hour rain delay, the game was postponed until today, necessitating a doubleheader starting at 5:05 p.m. As with all minor-league doubleheaders in recent years, both games today will be seven innings. 

This is not new territory for the Lugnuts, who, after tonight's matchups, will have played two doubleheaders in the last three days and three twin bills in a week. That's a difficult proposition for any team, especially when it's already late in the season and injuries have likely caused some attrition. On the other hand, it could be good news for Fort Wayne that Lansing's bullpen will not be particularly fresh even before tonight's games and certainly will be held together by paper clips and tape the rest of the week.

If the TinCaps want to avoid their bullpen being similarly taxed, they'll need good performances from their starting pitchers, Connor Lehmann and Felix Minjarez. Lehmann is coming off a difficult start against Great Lakes in which he gave up five runs in four innings, surrendering two home runs. He was also hit hard in his previous "start," which lasted only an inning because of rain (it's been a tough-luck stretch for Lehmann with weather, but luckily for him the forecast is clear for tonight); although he didn't give up any runs, two of the three outs he recorded in that abbreviated outing were vicious line drives. Prior to that, Lehmann had been very good, using his fastball at 92 mph and a stellar curveball to keep hitters off balance, but that combination hasn't quite been there in recent games. He'll try to bounce back against a Lansing lineup that is 11th in the 12-team league in runs and OPS.

Minjarez, usually a long reliever, will be making his second start of the season. The first start also came during a doubleheader, against Dayton on Aug. 27, when he pitched two innings and gave up a run on four hits while striking out three. Right-hander Gabe Mosser, who is working his way back from an injury that kept him out from mid-July to mid-August, was scheduled to start tonight, but Minjarez is getting the nod in his place. It's possible that Mosser makes a piggyback start, but more likely the piggyback start will go to left-hander Gabe Morales, who has made three long relief appearances behind Mosser in the latter's return from injury. Morales has pitched at least three innings in all three outings, including a 3 1/3-inning appearance Thursday at Great Lakes in which he struck out eight.

The Lugnuts will counter with right-hander Osvaldo Berrios, a 21-year-old who is making his fourth start with Lansing after a late-season call-up from Low-A, and left-hander Jack Owen, who is in his first season of pro baseball. Berrios has been a similar pitcher at both levels: not a lot of strikeouts, very few walks and an ability to pitch deep into games. The pitcher whom Fangraphs described as "a young, athletic righty with advanced command and a changeup" has a 2.65 ERA in three starts with the Lugnuts and has gone at least five innings in all three, including a pair of quality starts. The TinCaps have done damage all season with walks and they'll have to be patient against Berrios, who is going to nibble.

Owen, meanwhile, has only thrown 10 1/3 innings as a pro and he has a 6.10 ERA, but that is a fairly misleading number. His walk and strikeout numbers are good, but he's given up two home runs and has permitted more than half of the baserunners that get on against him to score (the usual number over the course of a season is about 30%). The 23-year-old former Auburn Tiger has a low-90s fastball and a terrific changeup, a combination that has earned him 14 strikeouts already. He has not pitched more than 3 2/3 innings in a start as a pro.

The TinCaps will once again send out a lineup that includes four players too young to drink to face Berrios in Game 1. Outfielder Angel Solarte will make his TinCaps debut after a recent call-up from Low-A Lake Elsinore, where he hit .306. Meanwhile, Robert Hassell III, Brandon Valenzuela and Euribiel Angeles will all be playing their second games at Parkview Field. 

Unlike Tuesday, it figures to be a terrific night at the ballpark. Remember, those who redeem their Tuesday tickets for today get to watch both games tonight.

dsinn@jg.net

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